ANNAPOLIS — Maintaining tuition affordability and getting students through college at quicker rates are among the legislative priorities for the state’s higher education system, Chancellor Robert Caret told the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Tuesday.
“I think it is Maryland that is the No. 1 education state in the country,” Caret said.
Caret was inaugurated as chancellor on Nov.19, just one year after the University of Maryland Board of Regents voted to allow state colleges to raise tuition by approximately 2 percent.
“A decade ago, USM tuition and fees ranked among the top 10 highest in the nation,” Assistant Vice Chancellor for Government Relations of the University System of Maryland Andy Clark said earlier Tuesday. “Today we are solidly in the middle of the pack to 25th.”
Caret told the committee that Maryland ranked third in the percentage of a state’s population with a bachelor’s degree and ranked No. 1 in National Institutes of Health funding.
However, he also said that there were problems such as student debt, that he wanted to address, citing The College Completion Agenda, a national movement that is directed toward more students making it into the educational pipeline, and out with a degree.
Caret said that college students in Maryland are graduating on average in 4.6 years, compared to the University of Massachusetts system — he had been president there — where college students graduated in 5.6 years on average.
“Maryland is doing great. The national average is closer to Massachusetts, but we can always do better,” Caret said.
Clark said that communication among university officials, the legislators and Gov. Larry Hogan will be crucial to the tasks that the University System of Maryland would like to accomplish.
“Chancellor Caret is going to work hard to establish mutual goals and shared priorities with the General Assembly and the governor on issues from college completion and affordable access to economic development,” Clark said.
Caret took over just months after the state government pledged $25 million as part of a $155 million project to help renovate Cole Field House.
Earlier in the briefing, the Maryland state Department of Education spoke to the committee on the impact of PARCC and other standardized testings and the impact that they are having on public school teachers and their ability to teach.
The Maryland state Department of Natural Resources spoke to the committee on Program Open Space and focused around repayment provisions.
There was also a briefing on the overview of higher education in Maryland by officials from the Department of Legislative Services. University System of Maryland received 67 percent of the approximately $1.865 billion in state funding for higher education for the 2016 fiscal year.